New Years Eve in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Day 2
Breakfast was simple but nice – fresh coffee and homemade orange marmalade will always make me happy! I headed out with a goal to see the Recolata Cemetery since we were not sure if it would be open during the rest of my time here. Maggie suggested that I take care using my “big” camera, so as I left to walk down Ave. de Mayo, the little one was out taking pictures. After crossing Ave. 9 de Julio (I made it in 2 lights across 18 lanes of traffic and 4 pedestrian esplanades!) I started seeing other people with cameras like mine – and larger. So, once I got to Plaza de Mayo, the larger camera was out and the picture-taking frenzy began! Lots of people were out and about. I am posting some travel notes – so see them about ideas for safely carrying cameras.

After taking pictures of Casa Rosada (the Pink House where Eva Peron, “Evita”, made her famous speech) and other items of interest, I headed to see if I could get on the Tourist Bus which would be one way to get to Recolata. The line was CRAZY, so I got a taxi and asked him to take me to Plaza Francia, in the Recolata neighbourhood.

I got some great shots of the century-old ombu bushes – with huge roots and branches that drag to the ground. I also tried to make friends with the dogs that were being walked by a group of people – there were at least 1 dog in the group. Only one was brave enough to come to me for a pet.
El Cemetario de Recolata is famous not only for who is buried there (Eva Peron’s is one of the “must-see” crypts) but also for the artwork and architecture. It is a photographers dream! Yes, there are LOTS of pictures to come (I’m just not sure if I found her crypt – I got a bit lost in the images and the heat). Did I mention it is hot?

After walking in an area with very little shade, I thought I deserved a treat – one of Buenos Aires’ specialities – Freddo ice cream! I had two flavours – limon and chocolate Italiano (it had almonds and cognac). YUM! I also saw one of BA’s iconic restaurants with a large outdoor area next to one of the ombu trees (I know they are “called” bushes – but they look like trees to me). This restaurant is called La Biela.

On weekends at Plaza Francia, there is an artists’ market. So I wandered through it and bought a couple of items – a decorated hair clip and a small hollowed-out gourd that is used to drink matte tea from. The one I got is decorated with tango dancers – including one on the metal straw that comes with it. So far on my travels, I have not seen one like it.

I am on a quest for tango shoes. Maggie made some suggestions, but was not sure if any place would be open this weekend. I caught another taxi from Plaza Francia and headed to the Obelisco – the large obelisk that was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400 year founding of the city. There were two shops that were supposed to be close to this landmark, so it was easy to tell the taxi driver where to go – and I could get another picture of something “famous.” One of the shops – Alanis Tango Shoes was not only easy to find – it appeared to be open. At least there were people in the shop. While I was looking at the shoes, a very nice man came up to me and starting talking – in Spanish of course. Unfortunately, we could not find a common language (he speaks Spanish, French and Arabic and I speak English and only comprehend bit of Spanish, French, and Italian. I won’t even get into my poor understanding of German. I really need to focus more on languages). I did get contact information, though 

After admiring the shoes, I tried to enter the shop, only to be told that she was closed – however she would open on Monday at 11. Guess what I am planning to do on Monday?

Walking back to Maggie’s was easy from here – and it was time for a break. Unfortunately, I had no idea what time it was! My phone did not re-set to Argentinian time automatically and the phone Maggie lent to me died. So I was at a loss for time-knowledge. But I did cool off a bit and decided to walk the opposite way down Ave. de Mayo towards the Palacio del Congresso. It houses the Senate and Congress and looks a lot like the Congress Building in Washington, D.C I also passed by the front view of the Palacio Barolo and I have to say, I have a wickedly good view – no way to really see it from the front. There is a nice fountain in front of the Congress building that inspired me to take more pictures. On the way back, I passed the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo Café, but it was closed. I also passed another place of business called “Open 25 hours”. I’m not sure which 25 hours they are open, since they were closed at the time.

I got back to Maggie’s and took a brief nap before getting ready for my New Year’s Eve Tango show. Before leaving, Maggie opened a bottle of champagne and shared it with me and the other woman from South Africa and her friend (also from SA – one was from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg). It was our toast to the New Year! I also kept hearing sounds like gun shots and learned that Argentinians celebrate with fireworks – including fire crackers, which is what I was hearing (Nothing like my first New Years in East Palo Alto – the then murder capital of the US – and the sounds of real gun shots and the guessing game of “hey, what kind of gun was that?”)

After the toast, I headed out. I was told to be waiting because they usually only pick up people from hotels. Fortunately, I had the emergency number to call, because they were late and I was getting odd looks from people walking along the street. But they finally arrived and we headed off – picking up a few more people before we arrived at the Piazzolla Tango.

The original building and has been restored (at one time, it was even a porn theatre, but was closed down). When it re-opened, it took the name of Piazzola, a famous musician and composer of Tango music. The space is opulent and includes private balconies that surround the main theatre area. We arrived and were directed to our tables. I was seated with a couple from Sao Paulo, Brazil – Cellian and Devin. Their English was much better than my Portuguese (back to my issues with language again … I HAVE to fix that!). But we had a nice time and a great view of the stage. We also took turns taking pictures of each other. According to them, there were a lot of people from Brazil at the show – they could tell because Brazilians tend to wear white for New Years, so they were easy to spot!

The food was ok – a fixed menu. We had red wine and mineral water to drink. The appetizer was a chees empanada with salad. The main course was the biggest piece of meat I think I have ever seen on a plate – and remember I grew up in Texas, do I have seen large hunks of meat!  The only problem with the meat was that it was not cooked according to your taste. I should have switched plates with Cellian because hers was exactly the way I like it and she would have been happier with mine. But, regardless of that, it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had (sorry to any vegans … I am an omnivore when it comes to food and add to that the fact the my family has raised cattle for generations (think the cattle raid stories of the Irish Celts and that is my family’s story and it is just part of who I am). Dessert was an Argentinian staple – dulce con leche (similar to a flan). It was so rich that I could only eat half.

Then the show started! The dancing was awesome. There were 5 couples – each with a different style but flawless technique. There was one older gentleman who was amazing to watch – especially for a beginner such as I am who is trying very hard to learn how to follow. Watching him, I could start to see how he communicates to his partner so that she could show the magic. Incredible! There were also 3 singers – two men and a woman. I want her wardrobe! I would look fabulous in it. It was also nice to see her dance because it was not the “showy’ steps – but it still flowed with her partner and so the connection was just as strong. I loved the show – thanks Sue for suggesting I take in a real tango show for my first trip here.

After the show, we were escorted to a smaller theatre where there was champagne and more desserts – this time chocolate– and a disco floor. My new friends saved me a seat at a table close to the dance floor. We counted down to midnight and toasted the New Year – then danced. Yes, there are some incriminating videos – just not of me (except I was moving when I took the videos, so it might incriminate me after all … note to self to review videos first).

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